Four NCAA Div. III championships
ST. LOUIS, MO.— Central College unleashed the long ball to go with its small-ball attack, belting four home runs to roll past Wis.-Platteville 8-0 (5 inn.) and Washington-St. Louis (Mo.) 7-1 Saturday.
First baseman Katie Canney (sophomore, Adel, ADM HS) launched a grand slam to cap a six-run sixth inning and break open a tight game with Washington-St. Louis (17-6), which was in the NFCA Division III rankings at the start of the year. The teams were tied 1-1 entering the frame. Earlier against Wis.-Platteville, right fielder Emily Te Brink (senior, Le Mars) hit a first-inning solo homer and catcher Caitlyn Meyer (senior, Newton) added a two-run shot in the third inning. The three round-trippers were Central’s first over-the-fence homers of the season. The Dutch (13-5) had only an inside-the-park home run in their first 16 games, which were played with deeper fences in Georgia and Arizona.
Pitcher Mallory Schulenberg (sophomore, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) got wins in both games to improve to 5-1 and lower her earned run average to 0.63. She went the distance in the five-inning opener, her third shutout of the year and Central’s eighth. It was also the team’s third consecutive shutout. Schulenberg allowed two hits, walked one and struck out two. Only three Wis.-Platteville (1-4) runners reached base, including the game’s first two batters on a walk and bunt single.
“That was uncharacteristic, but the inning showed how much this team has grown up,” coach George Wares said. “We called a conference but you could just see it on the players faces that this was no big deal and we’ll get out of it. Three batters later we had three outs and no damage. That was an encouraging sign.”
Te Brink found her swing in Arizona and continued to thrive at the plate with four hits in six at-bats on the day. In the opener, she reached on a first-inning bunt single and scored Central’s first run, and had an RBI double in the fourth.
The Dutch broke it open in the third inning as shortstop Annie Sarcone (junior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS), who had a run-scoring double in the first inning, delivered a two-run homer. It was Sarcone’s 16th career homer, moving her into third on the all-time Central list. Two batters later, catcher Caitlyn Meyer (senior, Newton) added a two-run blast of her own.
Central racked up 11 hits in the game, including two by Sarcone, Te Brink and center fielder Paige Heesch (sophomore, Titonka, WCLT HS).
After Te Brink gave Central a lead in the nightcap, Washington-St. Louis tied the game with a solo home run off freshman Kelsey Stender (Belle Plaine, Minn.) in the second inning, snapping Central’s 20-inning scoreless streak.
Stender allowed three hits, walking three and striking out one in 4.2 innings before Schulenberg entered.
“It was a tough game but Kelsey handled it pretty well,” Wares said.
A 6-run sixth inning for the Dutch settled the issue. Te Brink singled, stole a base and scored on a hit by Sarcone, and left fielder Heidi Reburn (senior, New Albin, Kee HS) delivered a clutch bases-loaded single just past the third-base bag to make it 3-1. Canney then crushed a ball over the right-center field fence for a grand slam and her first home run in a Dutch uniform.
Washington loaded the bases with three hits in the seventh but Schulenberg retired the last two hitters for the win.
Each team had seven hits. Schulenberg went 2.1 innings, giving up four hits with no walks or strikeouts.
“Washington’s got some legitimate sticks,” Wares said. “That’s their strength. They’ve been scoring a lot of runs and they play pretty good defense. That’s why getting those extra runs in the sixth was so important. We knew the bottom of the seventh wasn’t going to be easy. Washington is hard to beat on its home field.”
Te Brink and Canney each had two hits in the game.Te Brink upped her season average to .451 to take over the team lead.
“She’s still as effective as she was in Arizona,” Wares said. “The home run was on a 3-2 pitch and it was no fluke. It was a shot. And she started the other inning (the six-run sixth) with a two-strike base hit to left. She’s very confident at the plate.”
The Dutch stole seven bases on the day and hold a 49-10 season lead in steals over opponents. Central is batting .316 to opponents’ .203.
Central is combining with Simpson College to play host to multiple games Friday and Saturday. The Dutch take on the College of St. Scholastica (Minn.) Friday in a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. at the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex field. The Saints are 6-6 and posted a 9-4 victory over former Iowa Conference rival Cornell College in Florida March 11. There will be four games played at Central Saturday. St. Scholastica meets Wis.-Eau Claire at 10 a.m. and Gustavus Adolphus College (Minn.) at noon. Central takes on Wis.-Eau Claire at 2 p.m. and Gustavus Adolphus at 4 p.m.
Both of Saturday’s foes are NCAA Division III tournament veterans. Wis.-Eau Claire has jumped to an 11-1 start while Gustavus Adolphus, which joined Central in the NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic at Columbus, Ga. March 8-10, is 3-5, but scored a huge 2-1 win over powerhouse Linfield College (Ore.).
A video webcast and live stats will be available for each of Central’s games at www.central.edu/athletics. Saturday’s games will also be broadcast on KRLS-FM (92.1) with the voice of the Dutch, Trevor Castle.